The jury awarded Thomas Rinks and Joseph Shields, both of the Grand Rapids area, the full amount they were seeking when they filed suit in January 1998. The two men formed a marketing company, Wrench LLC, in 1995.
“It’s been a long time,” a relieved and elated Rinks said. “It’s been 51/2 years of litigation and it’s just really exciting that the jury system works the way it’s supposed to work and that the truth is finally going to be out there about what really happened.”
In a written statement issued by Taco Bell’s parent company, Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc. said it will appeal the verdict. The parent also said it will take a special charge of 6 cents per share in the second quarter ending June 16, in light of the jury award.
“Taco Bell continues to strongly believe that the Chihuahua character was created by the Chiat-Day advertising agency, not the plaintiffs, and we intend to appeal the jury’s verdict,” said Laurie Gannon, a spokeswoman for Taco Bell Corp., which is based in Irvine, Calif.
Rinks said he and Shields first created a cartoon character called “Psycho Chihuahua” to put on T-shirts they sold. They soon licensed the character to other companies, which used it on products such as calendars and school notebooks.